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  • Cierra Voelkl

Pet Dental Health...It's More Important Than You Realize

Photo Credit: Partridge Animal Hospital

Did you know that February is National Pet Care Dental Month? Well you do now! Dental care in your pets is more important than you probably realize. It is an important factor to your pup’s health. Plus, if they are in pain from a toothache, this can bring unneeded stress and pain into their life. On top of that, the bacteria from untreated teeth issues can enter the bloodstream which can later affect the heart, liver and kidneys. No one wants their pup in pain or a large vet bill! Don’t fret, this is all preventable with routine dental care and just keeping an eye on your furbaby’s teeth! Here are a few ways to keep their mouth fresh, shiny and plaque free.

1. Start getting your dog used to brushing their teeth at home. Some dogs will take to this a lot better than others, and treats might need to be used for coaxing. It’s best to introduce them to the idea as a puppy but if you have a newer pup you adopted as an adult, if they are up for it, it’s never too late to teach them about dental care.

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2. Annual cleanings done by your vet can help keep those pearly whites shining! Although, the risks of undergoing general anesthesia must be discussed with your vet first to decide if your pup is healthy enough for this. Luckily, a new form of gentle, non-anesthetic dental cleaning is becoming increasingly available that is pain free and simple but still effective. When it comes down to it, it’s all about what is safest and poses the least amount of risk for your dog. Very scary stories have come out of both scenarios as with any kind of health related procedure. Make sure to choose your vet wisely, selecting an experienced professional who has a wonderful reputation that you trust. While saving money can be important, so is the health of your best friend, whose well being should come first. When it comes to anesthesia free cleaning, vets speak out that one of the biggest risks is using sharp instruments in a dog’s mouth who won’t sit still. Imagine if you went to the dentist for a filling and they tried doing it while you wriggled about and growling? Wouldn’t be fun for either of you! Now imagine your dog as he really has absolutely no idea what’s going on. Overall, this is still a great alternative for dogs who can’t undergo anesthesia and still need regular cleaning every six months to a year. But this is NOT recommended currently by the American Veterinary Dental College due to the risks of injury.

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3. Anyone who has tried to do literally anything to a cat knows that there’s a 98% chance that you’ll come out of the situation with an arm full of bite marks and scratches. So how are you supposed to keep your cat’s pearly whites clean? Just like in dogs, foul breath can be a sign of gum disease or rotting teeth so the top thing to do is be diligent! This means yearly dental checks by the vet during your normal checkup. If you can start them young, start a regular teeth cleaning routine just like with puppies but if you must start as an adult, be patient and try dipping your finger in tuna juice and rubbing it on their gums to get them used to the feeling. Special toothpaste is made for them as the fluoride toothpaste that we use can make them severely ill if ingested. Weirdly enough, massaging their gums can help prevent gum disease which helps heal the gums and strengthen them.

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4. When it comes to alternatives, there are many that can act as a replacement or an additive to your pet’s dental routine. For both dogs and cats, giving them something to chew on to help knock tartar off. And yes, this is for cats, too! But avoid pork, fish and chicken bones along with raw instead of cooked as that can splinter. Water additives are also available for both of them to help reduce plaque and keep their breath minty fresh! Specialty treats, like Greenies, are also available for consumption and available in numerous flavors so they will be sure to enjoy them!

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5. Now it’s time to debunk some of those myths you’re probably thinking about right now. First off, dry food is NOT effective against periodontal disease. Ok, yes, it is MINIMALLY effective but not enough to where you get away with no other dental care. Next, just because your dog likes to eat his own poop doesn’t mean bad breath is normal in dogs. Bad breath is often a sign of rotting teeth and significant oral infection. And bringing it back to one of the topics earlier, non-anesthetic dental cleaning is NOT necessarily safer and cheaper than traditional cleanings. The level of injury for both dog and those performing the cleaning increases significantly. “The issue of cost is also a proposed benefit of NAD cleanings over traditional anesthetized cleanings. However, under closer examination, it is generally more expensive than traditional cleaning. In southern California, the initial NAD procedure can run from $75 to $125, with monthly maintenance of $35 to $65. This means that the first year of care can amount to $460 to $840. In contrast, an annual cleaning in a general practice is typically $400 to $600 and, in my specialty practice, averages $700 before radiographs” (Todays Veterinary Practice).

If you don’t know where to get started, check with your local vet to see if they offer dental cleanings but it’s not just vets that offer this. In Los Angeles, places like The Urban Pet and Adopt and Shop both offer non-anesthetic cleanings using different methods. Now, get out there and take care of those teeth! No excuses now!

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Los Angeles, CA, United States


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